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Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday is one of my favorite days to worship in the whole church year. The focus on the Last Supper with the footwashing always stirs my heart to thankfulness. The final action of the evening, the stripping of the altar that signifies the last hours of Jesus’ earthly life — how He was beaten and stripped of His clothes while experiencing the depth of human despair — brings me to great sorrow. The whole range of emotions are evoked during the Mandatum service that takes it name from Jesus’ commandment to the disciples to love each other as He has loved them. We worship on this night knowing that death is lurking, but that Sunday is coming. We experience the destruction of the Savior but we know the end of the story too. We are not left hopeless. We trust in the One who broke the bonds of death and freed us from all that holds us captive.

American novelist David Foster Wallace (1962–2008) once said in a graduation commencement, “There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships.”

The question is, what or who do we worship? Do we worship someone or something that cannot give life, such as money, power, beauty, or success? Do we worship our own abilities and independence or even our own bodies? Wallace points out that often the thing we worship is done rather unconsciously. We are not fully aware that we are engaging in some sort of worship. The reality is that all of these things leave us worse off — more empty, more dejected, more ashamed, feeling more worthless.

There is only One who is real and true and life-giving.

When we worship the Savior of the world, we find our worth, we are filled with joy, and we come to understand that we are not living for ourselves.
 
Our worship during this Holy Week draws us back into the very reason why we worship Jesus Christ. Our Lord is the only one who can break us out of our captivity to sin, death, and idolatry. Our Lord Jesus is the one who restores our lives so that we have a future we can look forward to. His love for us grants us joy and laughter, and we come to recognize what the psalmist said, “The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad.”

On this Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and even Holy Saturday when we sit and wait for the promised resurrection, we come to understand the ways in which we “sow in tears” but will soon “reap with shouts of joy!” God has done this for us through His precious Son who, as St. Paul wrote about long ago, “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:6–8). We are restored and have been granted a new life in the One who went to the cross for our sake. We will feel the sorrow of this holy night as well as the pain of Good Friday, but we will not be left there. We who go out weeping shall come home with shouts of joy!

Prayer: Lord God, call Your children to worship You in truth and great devotion. Let us not wander away from Your presence in our lives but rather help us to trust Your saving grace that brings us from weeping to joy. On this holy night, may we dwell in the beauty of Christ’s love for us and may our hearts draw closer to You. We pray this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Devotion written by the Rev. Dr. Amy C. Little

“”Albrecht Dürer, Painter, 1528; Lucas Cranach the Elder, Painter, 1553; Matthäus Grünewald, Painter, 1528; Michelangelo Buonarroti, Artist, 1564″”

This daily prayer and Bible reading guide, Devoted to Prayer (based on Acts 2:42), was conceived and prepared by the Rev. Andrew S. Ames Fuller, director of communications for the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). After several challenging years in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been provided with a unique opportunity to revitalize the ancient practice of daily prayer and Scripture reading in our homes. While the Reading the Word of God three-year lectionary provided a much-needed and refreshing calendar for our congregations to engage in Scripture reading, this calendar includes a missing component of daily devotion: prayer. This guide is to provide the average layperson and pastor with the simple tools for sorting through the busyness of their lives and reclaiming an act of daily discipleship with their Lord. The daily readings follow the Lutheran Book of Worship two-year daily lectionary, which reflect the church calendar closely. The commemorations are adapted from Philip H. Pfatteicher’s New Book of Festivals and Commemorations, a proposed common calendar of the saints that builds from the Lutheran Book of Worship, but includes saints from many of those churches in ecumenical conversation with the NALC. The introductory portion is adapted from Christ Church (Plano)’s Pray Daily. Our hope is that this calendar and guide will provide new life for congregations learning and re-learning to pray in the midst of a difficult and changing world.

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